With the recent legal brouhaha over homosexual marrige in California and the LDS Church’s response, the homosexual marriage issue is again a hot topic in religious circle and around the blogosphere. One of the big arguments of those advocating for homosexual marriage bans is that we must protect “traditional marriage.” Of course, I’m always curious what form of traditional marriage they want to protect; after all, marriage has had many different forms around the world, and has experienced quite a bit of evolution over the past couple hundred years.
“Not Ophelia,” contributor to Feminist Mormon Housewives, has written a profound post, “Traditional Marriage is Dead (and it’s a good thing too),” addressing just that point.
What we call marriage in this country is a very recent invention. Throughout the millennia marriage has been, not about two people who love each other and want to share a life together, but rather about power, property and paternity. About male control of women’s work, women’s lives and women’s fertility. The importance of virginity, the stigma of bastardy, the ‘head of the household’ status, coverture, and in some cultures arranged marriages, bride price, dowries, honor killings, and the right of husbands but not wives to divorce at will — all of this was (or shamefully still is) part of the effects of traditional marriage.
I’m glad she was willing to barbecue that sacred cow. Whether or not we believe homosexual marriage is sinful, it is certainly worth considering just what traditional marriage means as a theory and in our lives.